USC anthropology student Jake Butler understands the reasoning behind alcohol bans on the beach, especially in areas where families like to visit. He believes that beaches can compromise by allowing alcohol only on certain sections of the shore.
Devin Bingham, who is studying marine science and environmental science at USC, has many beach preservation and safety rules memorized. He was shocked when he saw photos online of a Florida beach before and after spring break.
By Micaela Wendell
College students might be finding spring break 2017 locations drier than usual now that popular beaches across the Southeast are banning alcohol consumption on the shore.
Well-known college vacation spots such as Panama City Beach, Galveston Beach, Myrtle Beach and Folly Beach have enacted more restrictive alcohol laws, among other rules, to keep vacationers of all ages safe and the beaches free of stray beer cans and other litter.
The commotion over drinking on the beach erupted in 2015 when spring break revelers in Panama City Beach, Florida, got far out of hand. Police investigated a house party shooting that injured seven and a gang rape on a crowded beach that was captured on video.
“Of course at the beach, you don’t want your kid seeing that kind of stuff going on anyways,” Jake Butler, a 21-year-old anthropology student at USC, said. “I guess I could see how people would be upset in the end, if they had to look over and that was going on.”
Panama City Beach City Council voted unanimously in May 2015 to ban alcohol from the beach during the month of March only and place a 2 a.m. curfew on all wine, beer and liquor sales.
While some locations, such as Panama City Beach and Gulf Shores Beach, have placed bans only during the college spring break season, other beaches like Fort Lauderdale prohibit drinking on the shore year-round.
Even with restrictions on alcohol for many beaches, the seaside party opportunities for college students haven’t sizzled away in the sun.
Panama City Beach has moved the wild revelry indoors, with local clubs hosting pool parties, dance contests, paint parties and musical guests such as Waka Flocka Flame and Migos.
In South Carolina, bars and clubs in Myrtle Beach have packed March with events such as foam parties, bikini contests, drink specials, free cover and live concerts to keep the college crowd entertained.
Devin Bingham, a 23-year-old marine science and environmental science student at USC, believes spring breakers and those who want family-friendly beaches can meet halfway.
“I think there could be a compromise,” he said. “As long as they don’t leave the beach so damn trashy after spring break. Because I know Florida, one of the beaches, they took before and after spring break pictures. It was horrid how much trash was on the beach. It’s really nobody’s job to clean it up, but I think people shouldn’t trash it too much.”
Chelsea Crouch, 30, has noticed that the alcohol bans on beaches have kept crowds calmer during warm months. The stay-at-home mom and her family often visit Isle of Palms, which is about 20 minutes from Mount Pleasant. Crouch believes Isle of Palms, or “IOP,” is the most family-friendly beach in South Carolina.
“I’m sure there probably are people drinking, but it doesn’t seem to be an issue. At least just not where we go,” she said.
Folly Beach, which is just outside of Charleston, originally saw a dip in business after banning alcohol in 2012, according to a 2014 article by WCSC Live 5 News. An increase in visiting families and decrease of alcohol-related arrests and citations were also reported.
Some beaches, such as Gulf Shores in Alabama, are planning to revisit the spring break beach alcohol ban each year, so the white sand, cold cans and summertime strolling from Jake Owen’s country hit might be back in coming years.